It’s been a while since my last post — I know, I know. I could make up wild excuses, beg forgiveness, blame other people for my absence. Instead, I will simply say that sometimes life just plain gets in the way of all the other stuff I have waiting on my to-do list. That said, as a reward for coming back, I offer not one but two — count ‘em, two — posts today. One savory and one sweet. Just like me.
First up: THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE ZESTY. Second: I NEED A PERK-ME-UP. Let me know your thoughts.
THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE ZESTY
There are many good –and bad — things about being unemployed . . . in your 50s.
Good: I can sleep in every day if I so choose . . . as it happens, I’ve never been a late sleeper. Bad: No paycheck on the first and 15th of the month . . . nor on the 6th, 12th or the 22nd, for that matter. Good: I can strike up a friendship with my postal carrier . . . because I’m home every day when he comes by. Bad: Our friendship is contingent upon him getting the mental-telepathy messages I silently scream at him as he strides up my front walkway . . . Please, no bills today! Please, no bills today! Please, no bills today! Good: I save oodles of cash by making my lunches at home . . . and eating them there, too. Bad: I’m in danger of becoming a recluse . . . but a recluse with a killer tuna salad recipe.
Let’s face it, there are probably thousands, if not millions, of tuna salad recipes floating out there in the universe. Most will vary in specific flavor additives, but likely all begin with two critical ingredients: tuna and mayonnaise.
Some people like solid white albacore, while others (like me) prefer the plain old chunk light tuna — which, incidentally, is usually cheaper than the albacore. To each his own. And the mayo, well, that gets trickier. The mayo debate could easily escalate into an international incident if we’re not careful. Sacrilegious as it may sound, I don’t need to use real mayonnaise. In fact, when it comes to the mayo in tuna salad, I really can’t tell the difference between the real and the light. (Did I just hear someone faint?) But, if the truth be known, I usually buy what’s on sale.
The other day, as I was making my lunch, I wondered just how much mayonnaise lies in the crevices of the inside of a mayonnaise jar. (These things come up when you have lots of time on your hands.) I found it completely reasonable to expect to get at least another tablespoon or more out of the indentations on the inside of my large mayonnaise jar. And I was determined to do just that.
This was a practical use of my time, I surmised, as it ultimately saves on my grocery bill — something to strive for when you are unemployed. And after several minutes with a butter knife and my mayonnaise jar, I proudly produced nearly two additional tablespoons of mayo that would otherwise have gone into the trash with the jar! Somewhere among Heaven’s puffy, white, cotton-ball cloudscape, dear old dad — who in his elder years took to rinsing out small baggies to reuse them — is smiling down on me for being so frugal. (Shout out to you, Dad, on this Father’s Day weekend.)
My tuna salad is fairly simple, yet very flavorful — and colorful, too. A neat trick to amp up your recipe? Lemon zest. What fish doesn’t love a refreshing yellow shower of zest? It adds a flavor punch that belies zest’s humble, tiny existence — as opposed to lemon juice, which can make the finished product a bit too soggy for my taste.
And, taking a nod from my local Whole Foods Market, I add sweetened dried cranberries to my tuna fish, instead of the usual pickle relish, to give it a healthier touch of sweet that works nicely with the tuna and lemon.
ZESTY TUNA SALAD SANDWICH
When I have the time, I like to prepare then refrigerate the tuna salad mixture for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meet, mingle and marry, to complement each other like any good partnership should. Besides, I like my tuna salad cold. Bored with tuna sandwiches? This tuna salad is also very good served in an avocado half sittin’ pretty on a cool bed of butter lettuce alongside alternating slices of fresh tomatoes and hothouse cucumbers. Drizzle the tomato and cuke slices with a tiny bit of Thousand Island or Louie dressing, thinned out with a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice, add a couple of whole wheat crackers and you have a very satisfying, fairly healthy lunch. My mouth is watering, is yours?
- One 5 – 6-oz. can tuna packed in water, drained well
- 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (This is negotiable because, who are we kidding, some people like a little tuna fish with their mayonnaise sandwich, which is fine. But I am not one of them, so feel free to fudge on this amount.)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel — just the outside yellow part
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons sweetened dried cranberries
- Scant pinch of salt (canned tuna can be salty already, so go easy here)
- Couple of turns of the peppermill (more if you’re partial to pepper)
- 1 slice Swiss cheese, room temperature (optional)
- Small handful of fresh baby spinach leaves or your favorite lettuce (optional)
- 2 slices whole grain or sourdough bread
Mix together first eight ingredients; chill for at least one hour. Assemble as desired on your choice of bread, or serve as a salad in an avocado or tomato half.